Posts Tagged ‘syd london’
If you’ve been lurking around Sugarbutch for a while, you know who Syd London is.
Syd has taken many of the most significant photos of me and my events in the last few years. She is an incredible photographer, hard-working and frequently nearly invisible at events, sneaking in to get just the right shots without interrupting the performers or the vibe of what’s going on (which is not true of all event photographers, just sayin’).
The first shoot that Syd and I did was a solo shoot of me, in slightly industrial Brooklyn, so early in the morning that I look kind of tired in some of the shots. But you probably recognize at least this one:
… because that’s the shot I used as a headshot for a few years. More from that photo shoot are on Syd’s flickr stream … I especially like this one.
Then Syd shot me and Cheryl the night that we started Sideshow.
You’ve seen many of these shots, too, because I used them as promo images for the series while it ran for a year and a half. There are many, many more shots of us from that night, together and separately, and the colors are amazing, and Cheryl looks so serious and dark and her usual self, and then sometimes one of us made her laugh and we got this rare shot of her smile. I’m so glad we have some photos of us together. Syd took hundreds of shots that night, and made us both look incredible.
She also snapped a few quick shots of me and Kristen, including this one, which is one of my favorite photographs of us together that we yet have:
And just, wow. I love that photograph.
Syd went on to photograph Sideshow for Time Out New York a couple different times throughout the series. How else would I have these amazing shots, capturing what it was like to be there for the first time? I was so nervous. Cheryl was buzzing around but kept a completely cool head, as she did. Kristen was beautiful and welcoming and warm, as she is.
And Syd captured it all.
Syd went on to photograph the Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference, for which I was on the steering committee, and snapped more shots of me, the conference in general, and Kristen and Cheryl as part of the volunteer committee that baked for the butches.
Syd also got shots of the Sideshow/Queer Memoir Butch Voices Mashup and the Speed Friending/Speed Dating opening night social. I’m on the Butch Voices national board now, have I mentioned that yet? I should make a formal announcement about that, I (we, the board) haven’t yet.
… And then Cheryl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Syd took the photos of Cheryl’s old fashioned lesbian head shaving ritual, and one of the photos made it into the New York Times “Lives They Lived” series and was featured in the NYT Magazine.
Kelli & Cheryl had their own shoot before we did the head shaving, so these are some of the last shots of Cheryl with all of her hair.
I love the love in these photographs. They were so good together, and loved each other so well.
Syd went on to photograph Nerd Love, the Valentine’s show that Kelli and Cheryl did together with some friends, as well as Fuck Your Health and Butch Burlesque and Butch It Up and dozens more community events.
And then Cheryl died. And Syd photographed the last Sideshow, just like she’d photographed the first one, except without Cheryl. And Kristen and I tried not to cry all night, and I put Sideshow on hold.
And a month or so later, Syd photographed Cheryl’s memorial.
… and I don’t even know what to say about that. It was a beautiful, important night, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
So basically, Syd London’s photography tells many the stories of my life for the past two years, from formal headshot photoshoots to community events to private rituals to memories that I am so blessed to cherish in images. I didn’t really realize that I’d be doing an overview of my successes and lows and family, but well, that’s what I’m doing.
The point is, Syd London needs a camera.
She’s been doing all this work borrowing camera equipment, and needs her own in order to continue capturing the community events that she’s been doing for many years, not just the last few that I’ve been working with her. She’s touched many, many lives of artists and activists in this community.
Here’s the video version of this request:
And here’s what Syd has to say about this campaign:
My name is Syd London; I’m a Brooklyn based, self taught, professional photographer and photojournalist. Until photography I struggled since the age of 9 with my soul question; how can I use my life as a tool? Baring witness, documenting and story telling through my photography while working to get those stories out there have become my answer. However, the professional grade tools which enable me to do this work are extremely expensive. I haven’t had my own digital camera since August 2010, when my camera was broken beyond repair. Since then I’ve been working on borrowed and rented equipment. Skyrocketing rental costs make it extremely difficult to continue and impossible to save for the needed equipment. I don’t want to wear my welcome out from relying on the incredible generosity of friends for camera loans. I never know what I’m going to work with or how/if I’m going to get a camera for the next gig. I’m especially concerned about the continuity of my work dedicated to social justice; licenses to these photos are frequently donated to organizations doing social justice work at a grass roots level such as Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Audre Lorde Project and Queers for Economic Justice. A professional grade camera rig of my own would enable me to continue my ongoing documentary about the LGBT community in NYC “Taking Back the Streets” (started in 2007), to continue to donate to magnificent organizations and artists as well as enable me push my work to the next level, something I’m starved for.
If you’ve got any extra money and you’re capable of giving a donation to her campaign, I urge you to do so. For selfish reasons, I want to keep working with Syd, and I want her photographs to keep being amazing. And for more community reasons, I know Syd’s work makes a huge difference, and I know how important it is to have not only a record of our communities, but a way to show us off in the mainstream that is accessible, beautiful, and moving.
Thank you, Syd, for all the incredible work you’ve done. I hope it’ll continue for a long time.
I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for a week or so now, and I can’t figure out what to write to go along with Syd’s slideshow.
These are the photos from Cheryl’s memorial, B is for Beautiful, taken by Syd London, who is a dear friend of mine and who photographed me and Cheryl for Sideshow promotion, the first Sideshow, and the last Sideshow, as well as a few other significant shoots of Cheryl’s—like her lesbian headshaving ritual. So many, in fact, that Syd created an entire collection of Cheryl B. photo shoots on Flickr.
Emceeing the memorial was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am so glad to have had some tantra and “holding space” training, because I totally cast a circle and grounded energy and did all of that. I wanted a container that could hold our grief, if even just for the afternoon. It was funny and fun and tragic and intense, just like Cheryl, and I think it was a really beautiful celebration of her life. Here’s what I read at the memorial.
Kelli submitted one of Syd’s shots to the New York Times “The Lives They Loved” series that is online and selectively printed in the NYT Magazine on Christmas annually, and submitted this shot of Cheryl, Kelli, Diana Cage, and me.
When my partner Cheryl B was diagnosed with hodgkin’s disease last fall and was preparing for chemo that would cause her to lose her beautiful black hair, a friend suggested a “good ol’ fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony.” We had friends over, made food, and shaved Cheryl’s head. There are many photos of Cheryl performing, engaged in political actions, organizing events. All these are important but I also want to remember her like this: loved, loving, happy, embracing the radical love of her chosen family and the queer (in a myriad of ways) community she had gathered around her.
If that’s not some radical infiltrating, I don’t know what is. And also, who else had photos of fishnets and cleavage? Amazing. Kelli tells the story about how she made the fact checker say “good ol’ fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony” no less than four times:
Young fact checker dude: So, it says “when Cheryl became ill with hodgkins, her friends suggested a good old fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony?”
Me: Oh I am sorry, my dog was barking, could you repeat that last part? (no dog had barked)
YFCD: Good old fashioned lesbian head shaving?
Me: Oh shit, you know how iPhones are, you cut out, could you repeat that again?
YFCD: Good old fashioned (sigh) lesbian head shaving.
Me: Oh I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch it.
YFCD: Good. Old. Fashioned. Lesbian. Head. Shaving.
Me: Oh yeah, of course. Yes.
I can see Cheryl rolling her eyes, too, so easily, at that she had to die in order to get into the New York Times—but I think she would’ve been very pleased about this little write-up. And I think she would like Syd’s collection of the beautiful photos of her, with her big love Kelli and with friends and fans and community, and I think she would have loved the memorial.
Miss you, Cheryl. Every day.
After Cheryl died, the reading series she and I co-created took a hiatus. July 2011 was the last performance, and Syd London took amazing photographs.
Readers were Ellis Avery, Samantha Barrow, E Charles Crandall, Kestryl Cael Lowrey, Morgan W., Renair Amin, & Ashley Young.
I think it really captures the vibe of the series … diverse and wide-ranging, joyous and emotional, community building and hook-up space (did you see all those super hot people?!).
I miss doing that every month. I’m hoping to revive it in 2012, but I don’t have all the details worked out yet. Will of course let you all know and shout it from the rooftops when I do.
"Butch is beautifully mind blowing to me. It's the contrasts of masculinity and hardness in a person who still has the soft skin of woman that drives me crazy. It's the refusal of butches to kowtow to society's "should's" that I continually admire. There truly is nothing sexier than butch to me."Read More
The rest of the Butch Voices photos taken by our official photographer Syd London are up! Take a look at the Speed Friending event that kicked off the conference, or visit Syd’s flickr to see them all together.
Here’s the shots from the conference, including my workshop “Cock Confidence,” and the community-building ritual keynote:
And here’s the Sideshow/Queer Memoir Mashup reading at Bluestockings:
Check out Syd’s recent work on Time Out NY, the PFAG Awards Gala, Mad Men Season Finale at the Bell House, the Grand Central Die-In, NY Burlesque Festival, and the Marriage Equality March. There’s also the Remembering Youth Vigil up on Go Magazine’s website.
Thanks, Syd! Prints or digital copies are available to purchase, contact Syd directly for more information about that. “Like” her on Facebook to follow her work!
Syd London, the official photographer of Butch Voices NYC, has posted the first of the Butch Voices photos!
Here’s the Speed Friending event from Anti-Diva at Dixon Place on Friday, September 24th, 2010. I love how these shots turned out.
You might recognize me & Kristen in those shots. Or you might find a shot of Kristen flirting with the bartender. Maybe.
Thanks, Syd, for all your hard work! Can’t wait to see more of ‘em.
And it was fantastic.
I want to tell you all about it, and I barely know where to start. It was thrilling to work on a committee which was so invested in working, and whose skill-sets were all so complimentary. Primarily, I worked with promotion, copy, images, and event planning & promotion, as well as hosting some of the events over the conference weekend too. Which tend to be the things I’m good at, and the things I most like to do, in terms of putting on an event. There were a lot of logistical details that I was less concerned with, personally, but the rest of the Core Committee was so on top of it, I didn’t have to worry about it—I could just do the parts I was particularly good at.
It’s the first time I’ve been such a key organizer for a regional conference, and I had a wonderful time. I learned a lot about organizing and producing big events. I think I might go into a little bit of withdraw after working so closely with the other organizers—Kelli, Kawana, Lea, Paris, Emma, Emilie—I’m hoping we can organize a post-event gathering to debrief and talk about what’s next. (There’s already some discussion about another New York regional conference in 2012.)
But: what happened at the actual conference?
The Friday Night Social Event
Friday night kicked off the conference with Speed Friending at Anti-Diva. I was surprised and impressed at how many masculine-of-center folks came out for that. It was great to have a kick-off event where everyone came with the assumption that they would meet other people, everyone was more open and talkative than usual. We planned on having Melissa Li perform an acoustic set, but there were some technical difficulties and Melissa never did go on. But oh the rest of us did … on and on, talking to each other and about the conference the next day and about the other events that were planned for the weekend. Many folks were in from out of town, and not everyone who came planned on attending the entire conference, but was interested in meeting butches (for various reasons).
Just about as I was ready to retire, a text came in from Kelli, conference “chair,” if we had one of those, to both myself and to Emilie, along with a photograph of the conference space: we had a wall! A genius contractor had saved our asses at the very last minute by coming in to help us divide up the very large QEJ Performance & Conference space into three separate spaces where we could hold two workshops, registration, and the hospitality suite. Not only did it look amazing, it ended up being constructed out of cardboard, twine, and tarps. It was more than I would have expected—when I arrived on Saturday morning—and it was perfect. Em and I were so thrilled, we actually high-fived—a move I do not usually participate in, but it was apt.
And then the conference started …
After getting things up from the car and helping to open up registration, the first thing I did was to attend a workshop with Corey Alexander called Doing Relationships with Emotional Armor: For Stones and Our Partners. I’ve flirted with stone identity, and definitely have some emotional armor, so it was interesting and intense to bring those things to light and discuss them openly. It was a difficult subject to begin the conference, but set the tone for the depth and personal level of discussion throughout the day.
I took a brief break to prepare for the Cock Confidence workshop I was leading in the third workshop block, and then joined the impromptu discussion. Conference organizers intentionally left some physical space empty such that active discussions could happen, either folks could bring up new topics they felt weren’t being addressed or could continue discussions started in the workshops if they felt inspired to do so. So a few people decided to lead an open discussion on responsible masculinity, which was very fruitful and touched on many topics and conundrums of masculinity that I frequently contemplate. It was great to hear other perspectives on these things that often really get to me, that I spend days thinking about, or talking about, or writing about. The question of “What is responsible masculinity?” was posed, and much discussion of misogyny and feminism commenced. One of the major points made was the ways that expectations can be oppressive, and that though our identities may appear to be something someone knows and can identify, and therefore draws all sorts of conclusions about (e.g., masculine of center -> butch -> top -> dominant -> dates femmes), that one has to actually ask and observe that particular individual to see if any of those things are true for them—and they may not be!
We also discussed butch competition and policing, and how to build more butch community. Someone said, “The only way to eliminate butch competition and enhance butch camaraderie is to acknowledge each other.” Which, I think, was beautifully put and I wholeheartedly agree. We spend a lot of time circling each other silently, and it is a thin line, if at all, between that and competing.
Next, I ran downstairs to Cock Confidence & Strapping It On, which is a workshop I’m doing many times this fall (already at Purple Passion and Conversio Virium in New York and Good Vibrations in Boston). I was greated by a packed room, and people just kept streaming in—it didn’t hurt that I had two Aslan Leather harnesses, three Vixen Creations cocks, and one Tantus cock to give away, I’m sure!
I started in on my workshop contents about confidence and communication when there were a few questions and comments, rapidly, from attendees. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what was said was, “What about butches who bottom, and the ways that can be seen as emasculating?” and then, “What about women who are survivors of sexual assault, and for whom penetration is difficult or traumatizing?”
Whoa. Big, huge topics.
Which I will gladly write about here, I have plenty to say about them (watch for future/soon essays), but on which I was not prepared to speak, or lead a discussion. I had a lot of (prepared) material to get through, so I explained that, and said, those are both way important questions and I would love to have a discussion about them, that I was not prepared to hold the space for that discussion now. But, I proposed, I will do some talking about toys, do the raffle, then adjourn early and folks can go off and explore another workshop, or stay here for Q&A and we can discuss those things. I also said: Thank you, for bringing that up. I am used to doing this workshop at sex toy stores (mostly with an audience of hetero couples) so those questions are definitely Cock Confidence 301 instead of 101, and I love that the Butch Voices NYC crowd really raised the caliber of the discussion.
Thank you for that, all of you who were there.
I think the room understood my point, so I kept moving on. I talked about toys, my favorite and the most popular harnesses and cocks, answered some questions, and pulled names out of the bucket to see who would take home some new toys. I’m going to work on a Cock Confidence Product Guide and let everyone know the things that I recommended and where I recommend getting them.
The conversation, when it continued, was a much smaller group and we ended up more CR-style, discussing our personal challenges and experiences.
It was definitely the best Cock Confidence workshop I’ve ever facilitated, and it was so much fun. Wish I could give away toys every time I do that workshop! To be clear—I give away these toys, and I work with these companies as a sponsor (of sorts) of Sugarbutch because I adore their toys so much, not the other way around (I don’t adore their toys because they’re a sponsor). I’m pretty picky about the toys I give away, and while I have tried out all sorts of products, even if I suspected they would be awful, I won’t give away things I think are awful.
Butch Representation in Media
Off I rushed to the Media Panel, where I moderated a discussion about butch visibility, mainstream media, working in the media, and how we use the media to further authentic images of ourselves. It was a great discussion with Madison, Grace, Mamone, and Dasha, and the attendees had many questions and comments about race, participation, othering, and success. I didn’t feel like we had a point that we really hammered home in this workshop, but then again, we didn’t really have a point that we set up to make when we formed this panel, so that was okay.
At the end of the panel, we went around the room and everyone there introduced themselves and did their thirty-second elevator pitch about what they do. It was fascinating to see the caliber of talent we had in that room, all together.
The Community-Building Keynote
The keynote at Butch Voices NYC was non-traditional in that we didn’t want to have one singular person speak for all aspects of masculine of center communities, and since it was a one-day conference we didn’t have time—or money—for multiple keynote addresses. So Kelli and I planned a community building keynote ceremony that was a commitment to our butch voices, and it turned out beautifully. It was incredibly moving, from start to finish.
It all started with a pebble, a river stone—everyone received one at registration. I took them from my own rock collection (remember my this I believe poem? “rocks in my pockets”?) I counted out 180, which didn’t even make a dent in my collection, to make sure we had enough for everyone, then added a few handfuls more for good measure. I have collected rocks over the years from just about any place I have visited, from Bournemouth in England to Ocean Shores in Oregon to Washington state to Southeast Alaska, where most of the rocks are from. The pebble beaches are the best up there. It’s become a bit of a collection, that therefore I subsequently have no idea what to do with. It doesn’t make sense to display them, not really, not beyond a few rock stack formations here and there, so they’ve been in a box for years. Seriously. A box of rocks. Useless and taking up valuable New York City apartment space. I’d be glad to donate them to a garden or beach, but most green spaces around New York are so manicured it doesn’t make sense to leave them there.
But a ritual—it was a perfect use for (some of) them. I was so pleased to pass them on in that way.
Before we started the ritual, we spent a moment with the Memory Wall we had constructed to add names to, people who are no longer with us but who came before us and whom we want to remember. And right away, the room got heavier, we focused, I felt immediately moved.
We all got a rock when we checked in at registration. The seven of us organizers stood up to explain about the ritual, what we were going to do and why, each taking turns. We explained that the rock had absorbed our personal experiences of the day, our individual voice and perspective, and that we were going to add that rock to the collective pile of our community’s experiences, similar and related, yet different and varied. We invited anyone who felt moved to participate—allies too, but whom were also invited to witness if they felt so inclined, as we need witness to our statements, commitments, and very existence—to come up to our make-shift alter, one at a time, and speak aloud the sentence, “My commitment to my butch voice is,” or “my commitment to butch voices is.” Folks were invited to substitute whatever words they wanted to for “butch,” if that wasn’t their identity word of choice, such as queer or genderqueer or stud or aggressive.
I wasn’t prepared for how moving it would be. I wrote the majority of the script that we read (which only dawned on me about halfway through the ritual, I wrote the keynote), and the whole time I was just crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be cheesy, but would be honored and respected and come across the way I wanted it to. It did—and it went beyond my expectations, like much of the conference did, above and beyond. It was moving, enlivening, big. Many of us teared up. Many of us said hard things that would not have been easier to say in other places, but which felt safe to reveal. Many of us murmured or clapped or responded as each person who felt moved came up to place their rocks in the wooden bowl on the make-shift alter.
Paris closed the ritual by having everyone repeat a line that Kelli and I came up with, based on the Core Initiatives of the Butch Voices conference: “Our commitment is to stand together, to take care of each other, and to make the world a more just place.”
And with that, everyone could take a rock home with them, if they felt so inclined, and we adjourned.
What a day.
I’m still reeling from it all.
And yet … right after the keynote, Kristen and I rushed downtown to get to Bluestockings Bookstore for the Butch Voices Speak Queer Memoir/Sideshow mash-up reading/performance. I posted photos and a wrap-up of it over on the Sideshow blog today, but expect more photos from Syd London (official Butch Voices NYC photographer!) as those get processed.
And more articles, more thoughts, more things from me, too, as that all gets processed.
I feel so much gratitude toward the folks who came and were involved. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.
I’m going to be out of town … so you all better go for me!
Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque
a fundraiser for BUTCH Voices
With your emcee Lea Robinson
Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St.)
Saturday, August 28th, 2010, 7pm
$10-$15 Sliding Scale
BUTCH Voices is proud to present Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque. Join us and explore the representation of butch identity in a bold, new, sexy way. Lea Robinson emcees this evening of hot and campy burlesque from some of New York City’s finest performers, including Becca Blackwell, Dapper Q, Glenn Marla, Luscious von Dykester, Natt Nightly, Kelli Dunham, Drae Campbell & Kimberlea Kressal appearing as SirMamSir and the Missus, Molly Equality Dykeman, Paris, Dom Juan, Daddy T.Y.E, and of course your host Cocoa Chaps!
All funds raised will go towards the BUTCH Voices NYC Regional Conference on September 25th.
RSVP for this event on Facebook. Have a great time! And if you go, report back on how it was, so I can know how it went? I’m sad to miss it (but then I think of the hot springs, and I don’t feel so bad).
The inimitable Syd London took some photographs of Cheryl B. and me to use for Sideshow promotion. We shot in the East Village, right around the Phoenix bar where Sideshow is held, on 13th & Avenue A. Some of the shots near the end are actually right in front of the Phoenix, that dark red brick wall with the wrought iron bars on the windows, kind of gothic-looking. And Kristen makes an appearance at the end, as she is the semi-official Sideshow Hostess.
These shots were taken the same night as the last Sideshow, the butch/femme themed Pride show on June 9th, which Syd also photographed for Time Out New York, and which are now up on the TONY blog. They’re gorgeous, check ‘em out!
Syd put a whole bunch of the best shots up on Flickr, shown here in a slideshow.
We haven’t finished choosing the images for our official promotional images yet. I’d love some help in picking out the best ones—Which are your favorites?